‘RHOBH:’ Is a ‘British Sense of Humor’ Just an Excuse to Be Mean?
On more than one occasion, British-born Real Housewives have chalked up their spicy digs to having a “British sense of humor.”
A recent example was on display during The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Dorit Kemsley’s husband P.K treated the ladies to a Boy George concert. The women had a fabulous time, but things went a little south after the show. That is because Lisa Vanderpump became the topic of conversation.
When Kyle Richards asked Boy George about whether he worried about someone from the audience becoming aggressive, P.K. piped in. “Kyle, nobody thinks like that. You could have issues. You can’t even get along with your best friend, so you could have issues.” Boom. The room groans as Kemsley scrambles to say it was a joke. Or was it?
The reaction was swift
Richards reminds P.K. he’s in the same position as the rest of the cast with Vanderpump. “Honey, it’s a joke,” he reaffirms. “It’s an English joke, not an American joke.” P.K. seems agitated by the situation as the ladies remind him that what he said wasn’t very cool.
As the group departs, Camille Grammer says what P.K. said was a “nasty comment,” especially how Richards had been defending Kemsley. In a confessional interview, Lisa Rinna says, “P.K. just loves to stir the sh*t and I can say that because I love to stir the sh*t.”
Kemsley tries to smooth things over with Richards. She admits she understands how Richards could be offended. But said P.K.’s comment was not meant the way it is being taken. “I’m so sick of ‘It’s British humor dahhhhhling,'” Rinna says in a confessional interview. “I wish I could hide behind British humor. No, I’m just an a**shole with iconic hair and big lips.”
Is British humor that biting?
In a way, yes, British humor can be offensive, especially to American sensibilities. “Combine self-deprecation with a dose of understated sarcasm and you have the key ingredients of British humor,” according to Education First. “Sarcasm and irony are ingrained in our DNA. They are produced with world-class timing and nearly always with a deadpan delivery that will leave you wondering as to whether it was indeed a joke (or not?).”
Culturally, that means a comment like P.K.’s may not be taken in the same context in the U.S. as in the U.K. “Brits are famous for being very, very polite, but a surefire sign that a Brit likes you is if they happily ‘offend’ you with the occasional witty, tongue-in-cheek comment,” according to Education First. “These are not mean-spirited statements, but rather a playful exchange of verbal sparring delivered with a smiling face and no apology. It can be used to make light of differences with new friends in an attempt to spark conversation.”
So should Americans let it roll off their backs?
Even though British humor is indeed filled with sarcasm, it doesn’t give people free license to use it as an excuse. If you know that a topic is sensitive or extremely touch, you should still back away from it. Using “British humor” may not be a totally credible excuse.
Famous comedian Ricky Gervais wrote about the fine line between what Americans versus British people find funny. “We tease our friends,” he wrote in Time. He added, “We use sarcasm as a shield and a weapon. We avoid sincerity until it’s absolutely necessary. We mercilessly take the piss out of people we like or dislike basically. And ourselves. This is very important. Our brashness and swagger is laden with equal portions of self-deprecation. This is our license to hand it out.”
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